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F1 Racing

Aerodynamics

A modern Formula One car has almost as much in common with a jet fighter as it does with an ordinary road car. Aerodynamics have become key to success in the sport and teams spend tens of millions of dollars on research and development in the field each year. The aerodynamic designer has two primary concerns: the creation of downforce, to help push the car's tyres onto the track and improve cornering forces; and minimising the drag that gets caused by turbulence and acts to slow the car down. Several teams started to experiment with the now familiar wings in the late 1960s. Race car wings operate on exactly the same principle as aircraft wings, only in reverse. Air flows at

different speeds over the two sides of the wing (by having to travel different distances over its contours) and this creates a difference in pressure, a physical rule known as Bernoulli's Principle. As this pressure tries to balance, the wing tries to move in the direction of the low pressure. Planes use their wings to create lift, race cars use theirs to create downforce. A modern Formula One car is capable of developing 3.5 g lateral cornering force (three and a half times its own weight) thanks to aerodynamic downforce. That means that, theoretically, at high speeds they could drive upside down. Early experiments with movable wings and high mountings led to some spectacular accidents, and for the 1970 season regulations were introduced to limit the size and location of wings. Evolved over time, those rules still hold largely true today. By the mid 1970s 'ground effect' downforce had been discovered. Lotus engineers found out that the entire car could be made to act like a wing by the creation of a giant wing on its underside which would help to suck it to the road. The ultimate example of this thinking was the Brabham BT46B, designed by Gordon Murray, which actually used a cooling fan to extract air from the skirted area under the car, creating enormous downforce. After technical challenges from other teams it was withdrawn after a single race. And rule changes followed to limit the benefits of 'ground effects' - firstly a ban on the skirts used to contain the low pressure area, later a requirement for a 'stepped floor'. Despite the full-sized wind tunnels and vast computing power used by the aerodynamic departments of most teams, the fundamental principles of Formula One aerodynamics still apply: to create the maximum amount of downforce for the minimal amount of drag. The primary wings mounted front and rear are fitted with different profiles depending on the downforce requirements of a particular track. Tight, slow circuits like Monaco require very aggressive wing profiles - you will see that cars run two separate 'blades' of 'elements' on the rear wings (two is the maximum permitted). In contrast, high-speed circuits like Monza see the cars stripped of as much wing as possible, to reduce drag and increase speed on the long straights. Every single surface of a modern Formula One car, from the shape of the suspension links to that of the driver's helmet - has its aerodynamic effects considered. Disrupted air, where the flow 'separates' from the body, creates turbulence which creates drag - which slows the car down. Look at a recent car and you will see that almost as much effort has been spent reducing drag as increasing downforce - from the vertical end-plates fitted to wings to prevent vortices forming to the diffuser plates mounted low at the back, which help to reequalise pressure of the faster-flowing air that has passed under the car and would otherwise create a low-pressure 'balloon' dragging at the back. Despite this, designers can't make their cars too 'slippery', as a good supply of airflow has to be ensured to help dissipate the vast amounts of heat produced by a modern Formula One engine. In recent years most Formula One teams have tried to emulate Ferrari's 'narrow waist' design, where the rear of the car is made as narrow and low as possible. This reduces drag and maximises the amount of air available to the rear wing. The 'barge boards' fitted to the sides of cars also helped to shape the flow of the air and minimise the amount of turbulence. Revised regulations introduced in 2005 forced the aerodynamicists to be even more ingenious. In a bid to cut speeds, the FIA robbed the cars of a chunk of downforce by raising the front wing, bringing the rear wing forward and modifying the rear diffuser profile. The

designers quickly clawed back much of the loss, with a variety of intricate and novel solutions such as the horn winglets first seen on the McLaren MP4-20. Most of those innovations have been effectively outlawed under the even more stringent aerodynamic regulations imposed by the FIA for 2009. The changes are designed to promote overtaking by making it easier for a car to closely follow another. The new rules take the cars into another new era, with lower and wider front wings, taller and narrower rear wings, and generally much cleaner bodywork. Perhaps the most interesting change, however, is the introduction of moveable aerodynamics, with the driver now able to make limited adjustments to the front wing from the cockpit during a race. All this will make the cars slower initially, but as ever Formula Ones best brains will be working flat out to make up the performance shortfall as quickly as possible.

Brakes

When it comes to the business of slowing down, Formula One cars are surprisingly closely related to their road-going cousins. Indeed as ABS anti-skid systems have been banned from Formula One racing, most modern road cars can lay claim to having considerably cleverer retardation. The principle of braking is simple: slowing an object by removing kinetic energy from it. Formula One cars have disc brakes (like most road-cars) with rotating discs (attached to the wheels) being squeezed between two brake pads by the action of a hydraulic calliper. This turns a car's momentum into large amounts of heat and light - note the way Formula One brake discs glow yellow hot. In the same way that too much power applied through a wheel will cause it to spin, too much braking will cause it to lock as the brakes overpower the available levels of grip from the tyre. Formula One previously allowed anti-skid braking systems (which would reduce the brake pressure to allow the wheel to turn again and then continue to slow it at the maximum possible rate) but these were banned in the 1990s. Braking therefore remains one of the sternest tests of a Formula One driver's skill.

The technical regulations also require that each car has a twin-circuit hydraulic braking system with two separate reservoirs for the front and rear wheels. This ensures that, even in the event of one complete circuit failure, braking should still be available through the second circuit. The amount of braking power going to the front and rear circuits can be 'biased' by a control in the cockpit, allowing a driver to stabilise handling or take account of falling fuel load. Under normal operation about 60 percent of braking power goes to the front wheels which, because of load transfer under deceleration, take the brunt of the retardation duties. (Think of what would happen if you tried to slow down a skateboard with a tennis ball on it). In one area Formula One brakes are empirically more advanced than road-car systems: materials. All the cars on the grid now use carbon fibre composite brake discs which save weight and are able to operate at higher temperatures than steel discs. A typical Formula One brake disc weighs about 1.5 kg (versus 3.0 kg for the similar sized steel discs used in the American CART series). These are gripped by special compound brake pads and are capable of running at vast temperatures - anything up to 750 degrees Celsius. Previously different sized discs would be used for qualifying and racing, but the 2003 changes to the rules means that all cars enter parc ferme after qualifying - and so therefore set their one-lap time on their race brakes. Formula One brakes are remarkably efficient. In combination with the modern advanced tyre compounds they have dramatically reduced braking distances. It takes a Formula One car considerably less distance to stop from 160 km/h than a road car uses to stop from 100 km/h. So good are the brakes that the regulations deliberately discourage development through restrictions on materials or design, to prevent even shorter braking distances rendering overtaking all but impossible. From 2009 teams have the option of harnessing the waste energy generated by the cars braking process and reusing it via a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) to provide additional engine power, which can be made available to a driver in short bursts to help facilitate overtaking.

Cornering

Cornering is vital to the business of racing cars, and Formula One is no exception. On straights the battle tends to be determined by the power of engine and brakes, but come the corners and the driver's skill becomes more immediately apparent. It's the area where an ace pilot can extract the tiny advantage that makes the difference between winning and losing. The fundamental principle of efficient cornering is the 'traction circle.' The tyres of a racing car have only a finite amount of grip to deliver. This can be the longitudinal grip of braking and acceleration, the lateral grip of cornering or - most likely in bends - a combination of the two. Racing drivers overlap the different phases of braking, turning and applying power to try and make the tyre work as hard as possible for as long as possible. It's the skilful exploitation of this overlap, releasing the brakes and feeding in the throttle to just the right degree not to overwhelm the available grip, which is making the best use of the 'traction circle'. The very best are those who can extract the maximum amount from the tyres for as long as possible. Oversteer and understeer are vital to understanding the way a car corners. They refer simply to the question of which end of the car runs out of grip first. In an understeer situation the front end breaks free first, the car running wide as centrifugal force takes over. Oversteer is where the back end of the car loses adhesion and tries to overtake the front - think in terms of a road car's 'handbrake skid'. Understeer is inherently stable - once the car reduces speed sufficiently grip will be restored, which is why almost all road cars are set up to understeer at the limit of adhesion. But it also slows down a car, which is why Formula One chassis engineers try to avoid it. Oversteer is,

by contrast, highly unstable. Unless a driver acts to correct it quickly with skilful use of steering and throttle it can result in a spin. But an 'oversteery' chassis helps the driver to turn into a corner and, at the limit of adhesion, it enables a skilled driver to carry far more speed through a corner than understeer. Which is why, to a greater or lesser extent, all Formula One cars are set up with an oversteer characteristic. A racing car takes a corner in three stages - turn-in, apex and exit. Turn-in is, like it sounds, the broad term given to pointing the car into the corner. Weight transfer under braking, moving the effective mass of the car from the back axle to the front, encourages oversteer during this phase, which the driver will use to help make the turn. The apex or 'clipping' point is the corner's neutral point, the place where the transition between entry and exit is made. Different corners may have different natural apexes, whether early or late (before or after the mid-point of the corner), and individual drivers may also use different apexes according to their personal technique. (A late apex can allow power to be applied earlier and can help to 'straighten out' the corner). And the exit phase is where the driver will blend the throttle back in as the steering is progressively wound off: ideally keeping the car right on the edge of the traction circle through an acute sense of balance. The traction circle is also affected by grip levels (dramatically reduced on a wet or dirty bit of track), and even the subtle changes in the camber of the road (its side-on gradient). The most successful drivers are consistently those who are best at judging the limits they can take their cars to under cornering - and go there as often as possible.

Driver fitness

Formula One drivers are some of the most highly conditioned athletes on earth, their bodies specifically adapted to the very exacting requirements of top-flight single-seater motor racing. All drivers who enter Formula One need to undergo a period of conditioning to the physical demands of the sport: no other race series on earth requires so much of its drivers in terms of stamina and endurance. The vast loadings that Formula One cars are capable of creating, anything up to a sustained 3.5 g of cornering force, for example, means drivers have to be enormously strong to be able to last for full race distances. The extreme heat found in a Formula One cockpit, especially at the hotter rounds of the championship, also puts vast strain on the body: drivers can sweat off anything up to 3kg of their body weight during the course of a race. Physical endurance is created through intensive cardio-vascular training: usually running or swimming, although some drivers prefer cycling or even roller-blading! But the unusual loadings experienced by neck and chest muscles cannot be easily replicated by conventional gym equipment, so many drivers use specially designed 'rigs' that enable them to specifically develop the muscles they will need to withstand cornering forces. Strong neck muscles are especially important, as they must support the weight of both the driver's head and his helmet under these intense loadings. Powerful arm muscles are also required to enable the car to be controlled during longer races. In terms of nutrition, most Formula One drivers control their diets in much the same way as

track and field athletes, carefully regulating the amount of carbohydrate and protein that they absorb. During the race weekends proper most drivers will be seen eating pasta or other carbohydrate-rich foods to provide energy and to give the all-important stamina for the race itself. It is also vitally important that drivers take in large amounts of water before the race, even if they do not feel thirsty. Failure to do so could bring on dehydration through sweating - not surprising given that the physical endurance required to drive a Formula One race is not dissimilar to that required to run a marathon.

Engine / gearbox

The engine and transmission of a modern Formula One car are some of the most highly stressed pieces of machinery on the planet, and the competition to have the most power on the grid is still intense. Traditionally, the development of racing engines has always held to the dictum of the great automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche that the perfect race car crosses the finish line in first place and then falls to pieces. Although this is no longer strictly true - regulations now require engines to last more than one race weekend - designing modern Formula One engines remains a balancing act between the power that can be extracted and the need for just enough durability. Engine power outputs in Formula One racing are also a fascinating insight into how far the sport has moved on. In the 1950s Formula One cars were managing specific power outputs of around 100 bhp / litre (about what a modern 'performance' road car can manage now). That figure rose steadily until the arrival of the 'turbo age' of 1.5 litre turbo engines, some of which were producing anything up to 750 bhp / litre. Then, once the sport returned to normal aspiration in 1989 that figure fell back, before steadily rising again. The 'power battle' of the last few years saw outputs creep back towards the 1000 bhp barrier, some teams producing more than 300 bhp / litre in 2005, the final year of 3 litre V10 engines. Since 2006, the regulations have required the use of 2.4 litre V8 engines, with power outputs falling around 20 percent. Revving to a limited 18,000 RPM, a modern Formula One engine will consume a phenomenal 650 litres of air every second, with race fuel consumption typically around the 75 l/100 km (4 mpg) mark. Revving at such massive speeds equates to an accelerative force on the pistons of nearly 9000 times gravity. Unsurprisingly, engine-related failures remain one of the most common causes of retirements in races. Modern Formula One engines owe little except their fundamental design of cylinders, pistons

and valves to road-car engines. The engine is a stressed component within the car, bolting to the carbon fibre 'tub' and having the transmission and rear suspension bolted to it in turn. Therefore it has to be enormously strong. A conflicting demand is that it should be light, compact and with its mass in as low a position as possible, to help lower the car's centre of gravity and to enable the height of rear bodywork to be minimised. The gearboxes of modern Formula One cars are now highly automated with drivers selecting gears via paddles fitted behind the steering wheel. The 'sequential' gearboxes used are very similar in principle to those of motorbikes, allowing gear changes to be made far faster than with the traditional H gate selector, with the gearbox selectors operated electrically. Despite such high levels of technology, fully automatic transmission systems, and gearbox-related wizardry such as launch control, are illegal - a measure designed to keep costs down and place more emphasis on driver skill. Transmissions - most teams run seven-speed units - bolt directly to the back of the engine. Mindful of the massive cost of these ultra high-tech powertrains, the FIA introduced new regulations in 2005 limiting each car to one engine per two Grand Prix weekends, with 10place grid penalties for those breaking the rule. From 2008, a similar policy was applied to gearboxes, each having to last four race weekends. 2009 saw the introduction of even more stringent engine rules, with drivers limited to eight engines per season. On top of these measures, a freeze on engine development imposed at the end of the 2006 season means teams are unable to alter the fundamentals of their engines design until at least 2010.

Flags

Marshals at various points around the circuit are issued with a number of standard flags, all used to communicate vital messages to the drivers as they race around the track. A special display in each drivers cockpit - known as a GPS marshalling system - also lights up with the relevant flag colour, as the driver passes the affected section of track. Traveling at such high speeds, it may be hard for a driver to spot a marshals flag and this system helps them identify messages from race control more effectively. Chequered flag Indicates to drivers that the session has ended. During practice and qualifying sessions it is waved at the allotted time, during the race it is shown first to the winner and then to every car that crosses the line behind him. Yellow flag Indicates danger, such as a stranded car, ahead. A single waved yellow flag warns drivers to slow down, while two waved yellow flags at the same post means that drivers must slow down and be prepared to stop if necessary. Overtaking is prohibited. Green flag All clear. The driver has passed the potential danger point and prohibitions imposed by yellow flags have been lifted. Red flag The session has been stopped, usually due to an accident or poor track conditions. Blue flag Warns a driver that he is about to be lapped and to let the faster car overtake. Pass three blue flags without complying and the driver risks being penalised. Blue lights are also displayed at the end of the pit lane when the pit exit is open and a car on track is approaching. Yellow and red striped flag Warns drivers of a slippery track surface, usually due to oil or water. Black with orange circle flag Accompanied by a car number, it warns a driver that he has a mechanical problem and must return to his pit. Half black, half white flag Accompanied by a car number, it warns of unsporting behaviour. May be followed by a black flag if the driver does not heed the warning. Black flag Accompanied by a car number, it directs a driver to return to his pit and is most often used to signal to the driver that he has been excluded from the race. White flag Warns of a slow moving vehicle on track.

Fuel

Surprising but true, despite the vast amounts of technical effort spent developing a Formula One car, the fuel it runs on is surprisingly close to the composition of ordinary, commercially available petrol. It was not always so. Early Grand Prix cars ran on a fierce mixture of powerful chemicals and additives, often featuring large quantities of benzene, alcohol and aviation fuel. Indeed some early fuels were so potent that the car's engine had to be disassembled and washed in ordinary petrol at the end of the race to prevent the mixture from corroding it! Over the years more and more regulations have been introduced regarding the composition of fuel, a move driven in part by the oil companies' desire to have demonstrable links between race and road fuel. The modern fuel is only allowed tiny quantities of 'non hydrocarbon' compounds, effectively banning the most volatile power-boosting additives. Each fuel blend must be submitted to the sports governing body, the FIA, for prior approval of its composition and physical properties. A 'fingerprint' of the approved fuel is then taken, which will be compared to the actual fuel being used at the event by the FIA's mobile testing laboratory. During a typical season a Formula One team will use over 200,000 litres of fuel for testing and racing, and these can be of anything up to 50 slightly different blends, tuned for the demands of different circuits - or even different weather conditions. More potent fuels will give noticeably more power but may result in increased consumption or engine wear. All of Formula One's fuel suppliers engage in extensive testing programmes to optimise the fuel's performance, in the same way any other component in the car will be tuned to give maximum benefit. This will likely involve computer modelling, static engine running and moving tests. Pit-stop refuelling is once again a vital part of Formula One, and an integral part of modern race strategy. The fuel rigs are designed to operate as quickly and safely as possible, twostage location and double sealing ensuring the best possible fit. The rigs pass fuel at the rate of about 12 litres a second. The hose itself operates as a 'sealed system', requiring air and vapour to be extracted as fuel is added. It is very heavy and requires one mechanic to hold its weight while another engages and disengages the nozzle. Another mechanic will stand by a fuel cut-off switch next to the pump itself. Leakages are extremely rare, although accidents

have happened, for example to Michael Schumacher at the 2003 Austrian Grand Prix. The car's engine oil is also worth a mention. It helps to perform a vital diagnostic role, being closely analysed after each race or test for traces of metals to help monitor the engine's wear rate.

Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS)

What is KERS? The acronym KERS stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery System. The device recovers the kinetic energy that is present in the waste heat created by the cars braking process. It stores that energy and converts it into power that can be called upon to boost acceleration. How does it work? There are principally two types of system - battery (electrical) and flywheel (mechanical). The electrical system looks like being the most popular. It uses a motor-generator incorporated in the cars transmission which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy and vice versa. Once the energy has been harnessed, it is stored in a battery and released when required. The mechanical system captures braking energy and uses it to turn a small flywheel which can spin at up to 80,000 rpm. When extra power is required, the flywheel is connected to the cars rear wheels. In contrast to the electrical KERS, the mechanical energy doesnt change state and is therefore more efficient. There is one other option available, though it looks unlikely to be adopted - hydraulic KERS,

where braking energy is used to accumulate hydraulic pressure which is then sent to the wheels when required. Do the regulations place limitations on the use of KERS? Currently the regulations permit the systems to convey a maximum of 60kw (approximately 80bhp), while the storage capacity is limited to 400 kilojoules. This means that the 80bhp is available for anything up to 6.67s per laps, which could be released either all in one go, or at different points around the circuit. The predicted lap time benefit is expected to be around 0.1s and 0.3s. How will the stored energy be released by the driver? The regulations stipulate that the release must be completely under the drivers control. There will be a boost button on the steering wheel which can be pressed by the driver. Why has KERS been introduced? The aims are twofold. Firstly to promote the development of environmentally friendly and road car-relevant technologies in Formula One racing; and secondly to aid overtaking. A chasing driver can use his boost button to help him pass the car in front, while the leading driver can use his boost button to escape. In line with the regulations, there are limits on the devices use and therefore tactics - when and where to use the KERS energy - will come into play. Do teams have to use it? The use of KERS is not compulsory for 2009. Given that the ultimate costs and benefits of the system remain somewhat unclear, do not be surprised if some teams 2009 machines do not initially feature KERS. Will a car running KERS be heavier than one which is not running the system? No. The KERS systems are expected to weigh around 35 kilograms. Formula One cars must weigh at least 605kg (including the driver), but traditionally teams build the car to be considerably lighter and then use up 70 kg of ballast to bring it up to weight. This means that teams with KERS will have less ballast to move around the car and hence have less freedom to vary their cars weight distribution. Any teams using KERS and a relatively heavy driver will have even less freedom, so lighter drivers could be at an advantage in 2009.

Logistics

For Formula One racing teams one of the biggest battles of a race weekend or testing session will be over before a car even turns a wheel: the vast logistical effort required to get all of the team's equipment to the circuit. Indeed each team competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship now travels something like 160,000 kilometres (100,000 miles) a year between races and test sessions with some of the larger constructors (running one or more test teams) doing considerably more than that. Nor is the logistical effort as simple as merely getting people and equipment in place. Hotel accommodation must also be found and booked (a team can require anything up to 100 rooms), hire cars must be sourced and the team's facilities at the circuit - from the pit garage equipment to the drivers' motorhomes and the paddock corporate hospitality units must all be in place. Almost equally important, in this digital age, are the secure data links that connect the team to its base, enabling telemetry and other data to be sent directly back (which in turn allows engineers to study any potential problems, even while the race is running.) All-in-all, an enormous task. For the European rounds of the championship most of a team's equipment will travel by road, in the liveried articulated lorries which are such a familiar sight in race paddocks across the continent. All of the race equipment required for the weekend will be loaded in these: cars, spare parts and tools. Most teams will 'pack' three cars, one spare chassis and several spare engines plus a full kit of other spares. Tyres, fuel and certain other equipment are brought separately by technical partners and local contractors. For the non-European 'flyaway' races the logistical effort is considerably more complicated (all Formula One teams being resident in Europe at the moment) as equipment has to be flown out on transport planes. Rather than use conventional aircraft containers, teams have created their own specially designed cargo crates, designed to fill all available space in the planes' holds. At present most of the teams use cargo planes chartered by Formula One Management (FOM) which fly from London and Munich to wherever the race is being held. In the case of successive flyaway races (such as with the Chinese and Japanese Grands Prix in 2006) there is insufficient time between them to allow the teams' equipment to be brought 'home', meaning direct transit between the two races. This means that considerably more components have to be packed. As the number of races outside Europe continues to expand, so the logistical effort required to transport the teams and their equipment will expand alongside it. Already the amount of transport required for a season of Formula One has been described, only half-jokingly, as being similar to that needed for a medium-sized military campaign.

Overtaking

As only one driver can ever sit on pole position for a race, and the entire grid wants to finish on the top step of the podium, overtaking is of vital importance to the business of racing. Simplified to its most basic form overtaking is nothing more than gaining track position to get past an opponent. This can be done at the very start of the grand prix, during the dash towards the first corner or during the race itself. Although you will often hear talk of cars overtaking in the pitlane (meaning a car gaining track position through a better pit stop compared to a rival) this is a matter of race strategy. Most people regard overtaking as meaning cars passing each other on the track, during the race. This sort of overtaking is brought about by a speed difference: the car behind going sufficiently faster than the car in front to make a pass. The higher the speed difference, the easier the overtake. As Formula One cars are typically very closely matched on performance, certainly those likely to be in direct competition with each other, overtaking must be carried out with a very small difference in speed - requiring skill, commitment and courage. One of the most important factors in Formula One overtaking is that of aerodynamic efficiency. As a car gets progressively closer to the rear of an opponent's car it moves into the 'bubble' of turbulent air being created. This has two effects, one positive and one negative. On straights this bubble gives what is known as a 'tow', slightly reducing the air resistance of the car behind and (all else being even) allowing it a slight performance advantage - hence the reason cars are often seen very close together just before an overtaking attempt. The problem comes with the second aerodynamic effect, found in corners, where the reduced airflow acting on the wings of the second car will dramatically decrease aerodynamic downforce, and hence grip - meaning that the car behind will typically be forced to drop back, or to pick a different cornering line in 'clean air'. Overtaking is not just about power, though. Often successful passing moves are made under braking - either at the culmination of a 'tow' into a corner, or simply because the car and driver behind have more braking power to call on. Similarly, if a driver has more grip to call on (or more confidence, in low-grip situations) then he may be able to overtake mid-corner by taking a radically different line to the car in front - often heading 'around the outside'. In overtaking battles the driver in front's best defence is his ability to pick braking points and cornering lines. A skilful driver can hold off an opponent by adopting a 'defensive' driving style. Typically this means reducing the angle available for the car behind to use going into

corners where there is a substantial risk of being passed. Providing that the driver ahead only changes his line once going into a corner (not deliberately attempting to block the car behind) this is a perfectly justifiable form of racing, and with it a driver in an inferior car can successfully hold off a faster rival. Narrowing the car behind's angle through corners can also force it to take a later apex and even run wide, even if it has successfully made the pass - and this can result in the slower car getting back in front again! A side-effect of this defensive driving is that it tends to slow both drivers down, which is why you often see these close battles dropping away from cars ahead. How easy overtaking should be, and how much of it is required to make for competitive and exciting racing, is a topic of endless debate in Formula One circles. Recent consensus is that it is too difficult and that there should be more - hence moves by the FIA in 2009 to introduce KERS-powered boost buttons, giving drivers additional bursts of power for short periods, and moveable front wings, allowing them to follow the car in front more closely without significant downforce loss. A great overtaking move represents Formula One at its very best - a poor one can bring the sport into disrepute. It is a tribute to the incredible skill of modern drivers that they are normally able to race extremely closely and fairly without making contact, but event officials are always monitoring overtaking attempts, and any dangerous driving, whether attacking or defensive, will see the driver called before the stewards and penalised.

Overtaking

As only one driver can ever sit on pole position for a race, and the entire grid wants to finish on the top step of the podium, overtaking is of vital importance to the business of racing. Simplified to its most basic form overtaking is nothing more than gaining track position to get past an opponent. This can be done at the very start of the grand prix, during the dash towards the first corner or during the race itself. Although you will often hear talk of cars overtaking in the pitlane

(meaning a car gaining track position through a better pit stop compared to a rival) this is a matter of race strategy. Most people regard overtaking as meaning cars passing each other on the track, during the race. This sort of overtaking is brought about by a speed difference: the car behind going sufficiently faster than the car in front to make a pass. The higher the speed difference, the easier the overtake. As Formula One cars are typically very closely matched on performance, certainly those likely to be in direct competition with each other, overtaking must be carried out with a very small difference in speed - requiring skill, commitment and courage. One of the most important factors in Formula One overtaking is that of aerodynamic efficiency. As a car gets progressively closer to the rear of an opponent's car it moves into the 'bubble' of turbulent air being created. This has two effects, one positive and one negative. On straights this bubble gives what is known as a 'tow', slightly reducing the air resistance of the car behind and (all else being even) allowing it a slight performance advantage - hence the reason cars are often seen very close together just before an overtaking attempt. The problem comes with the second aerodynamic effect, found in corners, where the reduced airflow acting on the wings of the second car will dramatically decrease aerodynamic downforce, and hence grip - meaning that the car behind will typically be forced to drop back, or to pick a different cornering line in 'clean air'. Overtaking is not just about power, though. Often successful passing moves are made under braking - either at the culmination of a 'tow' into a corner, or simply because the car and driver behind have more braking power to call on. Similarly, if a driver has more grip to call on (or more confidence, in low-grip situations) then he may be able to overtake mid-corner by taking a radically different line to the car in front - often heading 'around the outside'. In overtaking battles the driver in front's best defence is his ability to pick braking points and cornering lines. A skilful driver can hold off an opponent by adopting a 'defensive' driving style. Typically this means reducing the angle available for the car behind to use going into corners where there is a substantial risk of being passed. Providing that the driver ahead only changes his line once going into a corner (not deliberately attempting to block the car behind) this is a perfectly justifiable form of racing, and with it a driver in an inferior car can successfully hold off a faster rival. Narrowing the car behind's angle through corners can also force it to take a later apex and even run wide, even if it has successfully made the pass - and this can result in the slower car getting back in front again! A side-effect of this defensive driving is that it tends to slow both drivers down, which is why you often see these close battles dropping away from cars ahead. How easy overtaking should be, and how much of it is required to make for competitive and exciting racing, is a topic of endless debate in Formula One circles. Recent consensus is that it is too difficult and that there should be more - hence moves by the FIA in 2009 to introduce KERS-powered boost buttons, giving drivers additional bursts of power for short periods, and moveable front wings, allowing them to follow the car in front more closely without significant downforce loss. A great overtaking move represents Formula One at its very best - a poor one can bring the sport into disrepute. It is a tribute to the incredible skill of modern drivers that they are normally able to race extremely closely and fairly without making contact, but event officials

are always monitoring overtaking attempts, and any dangerous driving, whether attacking or defensive, will see the driver called before the stewards and penalised.

Race control

During a Grand Prix weekend, race control lies at the very heart of Formula One, responsible for monitoring and supervising all stages of the practice, qualifying and race sessions. Facilities vary between different circuits, but all will have several key features essential to allowing the FIA Race Director and his staff to make the right decisions to keep things safe, legal and to schedule. Screens will provide images from every part of the circuit with a dedicated Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system. This enables the location of problems to be detected quickly and the appropriate action taken. Timing data will also be provided with the same information feed given to the teams (and similar to the information available on Formula1.coms 'Live Timing' section during race sessions). However, in addition the Race Director will have access to a plethora of additional information, such as the pit lane speed trap, allowing him to ensure that all sessions are run safely and within the regulations. There is also telephone and radio contact with the principal marshals' posts, safety car, medical response car and the medical centre, so that in the event of any major problem the Race Director can remain in full contact with the relevant people. It is the responsibility of Race Control to order the deployment of the safety car when necessary and - equally importantly - to bring it back in at the right time. The Race Director will be assisted by other FIA personnel, and also staff from the local circuit itself. A vital part of the race controls responsibility is that of referring to the race stewards incidents in which drivers may have transgressed rules or broken the sporting code that governs racing. The most common penalty given in such incidents is the 'drive-through' where a driver will have to make an unscheduled trip through the pit lane without stopping.

For more complicated disciplinary issues, such as who was to blame in an accident or for contact between cars, may be assessed at the conclusion of the race, rather than during it, as this gives teams a chance to defend their drivers conduct. In the event of a very serious incident - or if track conditions become dangerous (for example, due to very heavy rain) - the race director is also responsible for deciding if the race should be stopped. It is a tribute to the unruffled professionalism typical of the men and women who staff Race Control at Grands Prix that races typically progress as smoothly as they do - and problems are pounced upon and contained very quickly.

Race strategy

Part science, part magic - a decent strategy is essential to the business of winning races. Or, indeed, losing them. The basic variables of the equation are simple enough: fuel load and tyre wear. But from then on, it gets vastly more complicated. Shortly after the reintroduction of fuelling stops to Formula One racing, the teams' race strategists worked out that at some circuits benefit could be gained from making two or three stops, rather than just one. This was because the car could run substantially quicker on a lower fuel load (with less weight to carry around) and using the grippier, but less durable, soft tyre compounds. A difference in performance that could be sufficient to offset the effect of the 30 or so seconds lost making a pit stop. Strategy continued to evolve, especially when it became obvious that certain teams were carefully working out just where in the order their driver would re-emerge after a stop. This allowed a car being baulked by a slower but hard to overtake runner to pit early, return to clear track and then put in faster laps that would ensure emerging ahead once the slower car made its stop - overtaking in the pit lane as it has become known. This called on rigid pit stop timetables to be abandoned and replaced by a looser system of pit stop windows, with a number of laps on which a car can make its stop to gain best strategic advantage. And the

move to a single tyre supplier in 2007 has forced teams to once again re-evaluate their race strategies, in light of all their rivals running on the same rubber, and the requirement for all drivers to use both the supplied specifications of tyres during a race. Data such as weather forecasts, the likelihood of overtaking at a particular track, the length of the pitlane and even the chances of an accident likely to require the use of the safety car all come into play when deciding strategy. And, of course, one of the largest ingredients remains, as always, luck.

Steering wheel

Formula One drivers have no spare concentration for operating fiddly controls, or trying to look at small, hidden gauges. Hence the controls and instrumentation for modern Formula One cars have almost entirely migrated to the steering wheel itself - the critical interface between the driver and the car. Early Formula One cars used steering wheels taken directly from road cars. They were normally made from wood (necessitating the use of driving gloves), and in the absence of packaging constraints they tended to be made as large a diameter as possible, to reduce the effort needed to turn. As cars grew progressively lower and cockpits narrower throughout the 1960s and 1970s, steering wheels became smaller, so as to fit into the more compact space available. The introduction of semi-automatic gearchanges via the now familiar 'paddles' marked the beginning of the move to concentrate controls as close to the driver's fingers as possible. The first buttons to appear on the face of the steering wheel were the 'neutral' button (vital for taking the car out of gear in the event of a spin), and the on-board radio system's push-to-talk button. As time went on the trend continued. Excepting the throttle and brake pedals, few Formula One cars have any controls other than those on the face of the wheel. Buttons tend to be used

for 'on/off' functions, such as engaging the pit-lane speed limiter system, while rotary controls govern functions with multiple settings, such as the traction control programme, fuel mixture and even the car's front-to-rear brake bias - all functions the driver might wish to alter to take account of changing conditions during the race. Among the most recent additions are the boost button, used to call on the temporary additional power available through the cars KERS system, and controls for the moveable front wing. The steering wheel is also used to house instrumentation, normally via a multi-function LCD display screen and - more visibly - the ultra-bright 'change up' lights that tell the driver the perfect time for the optimum gearshift. Race control can also communicate with the driver via a compulsory, steering-wheel mounted GPS marshalling system. This displays warning lights, with colours corresponding to the marshals flags, to alert drivers to approaching hazards, such as an accident, on the track ahead. The steering wheels are not designed to make more than three quarters of a turn of lock in total, so there is no need for a continuous rim, instead there are just two 'cut outs' for the driver's hands. One of the most technically complicated parts of the whole Formula One car is the snap-on connector that joins the wheel to the steering column. This has to be tough enough to take the steering forces, but it also provides the electrical connections between the controls and the car itself. The FIA technical regulations state that the driver must be able to get out of the car within five seconds, removing nothing except the steering wheel - so rapid release is vitally important. Formula One cars now run with power assisted steering, reducing the forces that must be transmitted by the steering wheel. This has enabled designers to continue with the trend of reducing the steering wheel size, with the typical item now being about half the diameter of that of a normal road car.

Suspension

The suspension of a modern Formula One car forms the critical interface between the different elements that work together to produce its performance. Suspension is what harnesses the power of the engine, the downforce created by the wings and aerodynamic pack and the grip of the tyres, and allows them all to be combined effectively and translated into a fast on-track package. Unlike road cars, occupant comfort does not enter the equation - spring and damper rates are very firm to ensure the impact of hitting bumps and kerbs is defused as quickly as possible. The spring absorbs the energy of the impact, the shock absorber releases it on the return stroke, and prevents an oscillating force from building up. Think in terms of catching a ball rather than letting it bounce. Following the ban on computer-controlled 'active' suspension in the 1990s, all of the Formula One car's suspension functions must be carried out without electronic intervention. The cars feature 'multi-link' suspension front and rear, broadly equivalent to the double wishbone layout of some road cars, with unequal length suspension arms top and bottom to allow the best possible control of the camber angle the wheel takes during cornering. As centrifugal force causes the body to roll, the longer effective radius of the lower suspension arms means that the bottom of the tyre (viewed from ahead) slants out further than the top, vital for maximising the grip yielded by the tyre. Unlike road cars, Formula One springs are no longer mounted directly to the suspension arms, instead being operated remotely via push-rods and bell cranks which (like the lobes of a camshaft) allow for variable rate springing - softer initial compliance becoming stronger as the spring is compressed further. The suspension links themselves are now made out of carbon fibre to add strength and save weight. This is vital to reduce 'unsprung mass' - the weight of components between the springs and the surface of the track. Modern Formula One suspension is minutely adjustable. Initial set-up for a track will be made according to weather conditions (wet weather settings are far softer) and experience from previous years, which will determine basic spring and damper settings. These rates can then be altered according to driver preference and tyre performance, as can the suspension geometry under specific circumstances. Set-up depends on the aerodynamic requirements of the track, weather conditions and driver preference for understeer or oversteer - this being nothing more complicated than whether the front or back of the car loses grip first at the limits of adhesion.

Testing

As the sport of Formula One racing grows ever more technically demanding, so the practice of testing has grown in importance. The old principle of tinkering with an instinctively designed car has long since been superseded by systematic testing of every major component and structure - both before and after the car is fully built and ready to race. Much of this testing work happens unseen, deep within the constructors' factories and wind tunnel facilities. Once cars are assembled the more conspicuous type of testing begins, out on race tracks with real drivers at the wheel. This is where a car's fundamental abilities can be properly assessed for the first time - many cars that look great 'on paper' have turned out to perform poorly on the track. But track testing is also where the steady evolution that happens to all Formula One cars during the course of their life begins, a constant improvement of tiny details and set-up. A modern Formula One team's testing programme is a major exercise in both manpower and logistics and many teams use test drivers to take a share of the testing burden from the race drivers themselves, though their role has been somewhat reduced in recent seasons by increasingly stringent testing restrictions. In 2008, regulations limited each constructor to 30,000km of testing per season, the majority done during multi-team tests (normally three days in duration) at FIA-approved racetracks around Europe, where any team could elect to pay a portion of the costs and to bring its cars. In addition, teams also operated closed sessions where they could trial top-secret future machinery or innovations. As part of moves to further reduce the costs of competing in Formula One racing, the testing allowance was slashed to 15,000km from 2009, with in-season testing banned. However, Grand Prix Fridays serve as test days of sorts, with two 90-minute practice sessions in which drivers may try out new developments as well as working on their race set-up.

The race start

The start of a Grand Prix is among the most exciting of all sporting moments. A desperate struggle for immediate advantage as a grid full of vastly powerful cars, and vastly skilled drivers, all try to arrive first at the first corner. This is entirely rational, of course, as the start of any race is one of the best opportunities to gain position. Indeed at races like Monaco, it's one of the very few opportunities to overtake. A good start can make a driver's race; a bad one can all too often finish it.

Drivers try to prepare for the beginning of a race by creating a mental image of the start that they want to make, taking into account different factors of position and track condition. The team will normally try to protect its drivers from intrusive media attention on the grid if they fear this could interfere with his concentration. During this period before a race, as cars are formed up and the final alterations allowed by the regulations are carried out, the grid will often look like a scene of chaos, although all the mechanics, team members and even media will be working to very precise plans. Once a Formula One car's engine is started its need to move becomes very urgent. As they are designed to operate at high speed (where there is a good supply of cooling air flowing over surfaces) modern Formula One cars have very little in the way of cooling - and the heat created by running engines while stationary puts enormous strain on the mechanical parts of the car, especially at hot races. Once the mechanics have cleared the grid, the cars will be waved away for a single formation lap. For the driver in pole position, this is quite a challenging test, as he has to carefully control the pace of the formation lap to ensure both that he has the best opportunity to work some heat into his car's tyres (through hard acceleration, braking and cornering), while also making sure that he does not complete the lap so quickly as to be left sitting on the grid for a long period as other cars take their places behind him - as this could damage the car. Once all the cars have come to a halt on the grid, and the course car and medical cars are also in position further back, the start sequence is initiated by the race controller. Green lights are no longer used to indicate the start of a race, instead once the red lights are extinguished (there is a pre-determined random time delay of between 4 and 14 seconds - over which the race controller has no control - between the lights coming on and the last one going out) the race is underway. As he accelerates towards the first corner, a driver will adapt his strategy to be either offensive or defensive depending on how good a start he has made. The conflicting demands are those of gaining position on one hand, and defending your current one on the other. Extremely close racing is usual at the start of a race, with the sight of cars four or even five abreast across the width of the track being far from unusual. The situation is made more challenging for drivers as many of them will be approaching the first corner off line, and possibly in areas of relatively low adhesion. It is fortunate that the extremely high standards of professionalism among modern drivers, in combination with a willingness by the FIA to take stern disciplinary measures when warranted, have dramatically reduced the tendency for first-corner accidents of a few seasons ago.

Tyres

A modern Formula One car is a technical masterpiece. But considering the development effort invested in aerodynamics, composite construction and engines it is easy to forget that tyres are still a race cars biggest single performance variable. Traditionally, an average car with good tyres could do well, even very well, but with bad tyres even the very best car did not stand a chance. The move to a single tyre supplier in 2007 altered that equation somewhat, but, even now, optimizing the car-tyre balance is something of a black art. Despite some genuine technical crossover, race tyres and road tyres are - at best - distant cousins. An ordinary car tyre is made with heavy steel-belted radial plies and designed for durability - typically a life of 16,000 kilometres or more (10,000 miles). A Formula One tyre is designed to last for, at most, 200 kilometres and - like everything else on a the car - is constructed to be as light and strong as possible. That means an underlying nylon and polyester structure in a complicated weave pattern designed to withstand far larger forces than road car tyres. In Formula One racing that means anything up to a tonne of downforce, 4g lateral loadings and 5g longitudinal loadings. The racing tyre is constructed from very soft rubber compounds which offer the best possible grip against the texture of the racetrack, but wear very quickly in the process. If you look at a typical track you will see that, just off the racing line, a large amount of rubber debris gathers (known to the drivers as 'marbles'). All racing tyres work best at relatively high temperatures.

For example, the dry 'grooved' tyres used up until very recently were typically designed to function at between 90 degrees Celsius and 110 degrees Celsius. The development of the racing tyre came of age with the appearance of 'slick' tyres in the 1960s. Teams and tyre makers realised that, by omitting a tread pattern on dry weather tyres, the surface area of rubber in contact with the road could be maximised. Formula One cars ran with slicks until the 1998 rule changes came into effect, and new tyre standards were introduced in an attempt to improve the spectacle of Formula One racing by reducing cornering speeds. This led to the familiar sight of 'grooved' tyres, the regulations specifying that all tyres had to have four continuous longitudinal grooves at least 2.5 mm deep and spaced 50mm apart. These changes created several new challenges for the tyre manufacturers - most notably ensuring the grooves' integrity, which in turn limited the softness of rubber compounds that could be used. Coming up to date, the 2009 season brings a much-welcomed return to slick tyres, following the FIAs decision to limit aerodynamics rather than rubber as a way of keeping cornering speeds under control. The 'softness' or 'hardness' of rubber compounds is varied for each race according to the known characteristics of the track. Two different compounds are available to each team at every Grand Prix weekend, and every driver must make use of both specifications during the race. The actual softness of the tyre rubber is varied by changes in the proportions of ingredients added to the rubber, of which the three main ones are carbon, sulphur and oil. Generally speaking, the more oil in a tyre, the softer it will be. Intermediate and wet-weather tyres have full tread patterns, necessary to expel standing water when racing in the wet. One of the worst possible situations for a race driver remains 'aquaplaning' - the condition when a film of water builds up between the tyre and the road, meaning that the car is effectively floating. This leads to vastly reduced levels of grip. The tread patterns of modern racing tyres are mathematically designed to scrub the maximum amount of water possible from the track surface to ensure the best possible contact between the rubber and the track. Formula One tyres are normally filled with a special, nitrogen-rich air mixture, designed to minimise variations in tyre pressure with temperature. The mixture also retains the pressure longer than normal air would.

The safety car

The safety car comes into use during a race when the Race Director wants to reduce speed for safety reasons - for instance, after an accident or because the track is waterlogged after heavy rain. According to the regulations, the safety car enters the circuit whenever there is an immediate hazard but the conditions do not require the race to be interrupted. The safety car is on standby throughout a Grand Prix, ready to be dispatched by Race Control at a moment's notice. State-of-the-art radio and video equipment enable communication to be maintained at all times. When the Race Director decides to deploy the safety car it will join the track immediately and from that point no overtaking is allowed. The safety car will then allow cars to pass it until the race leader is immediately behind it. When signalled to do so, any lapped cars in among the leading pack may then unlap themselves, pass the safety car and proceed around the circuit to retake their positions at the back of the field. Throughout the process, a 'Safety car' board is also displayed to drivers as they cross the start-finish line, and the information will also be relayed over radios from the pit lane. When the Race Director orders the safety car to leave the track again, a similarly exact procedure is followed. At the start of its final lap the safety car will turn off its orange flashing lights. Competitors must still remain behind in formation, but they know that at the beginning of the next lap they will be racing again. The safety car will pull off into the pits at the end of the lap and - as they cross the line - the competitors restart their battle. Since 1996 the official Formula One safety car has been supplied by Mercedes-Benz and the current model is a 525-HP Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG. It is not a standard road car. In order to ensure the best possible reliability even in tropical temperatures, the vehicle incorporates large additional coolers for engine oil, transmission oil, cooling water and power steering. Despite a larger braking system including brake cooling, additional cooling measures, lighting system and communications equipment the safety car is significantly lighter than the road version. It has been possible to dispense with all the mechanical and hydraulic components of the convertible roof. Also, the sound-absorbing materials, which serve primarily to improve the driving comfort, have been removed. The result is a weight reduction of 220 kilograms and a safety car that only weighs 1750 kilograms. Since 2000 the FIA has entrusted the task of driving the safety car to Bernd Maylander, a

former successful touring-car racer. He knows how to keep the pace during the safety period just high enough so that the Formula One cars tyres and brakes do not cool down too much. Maylander started his career in karting at the end of the 1980s. In the following years he progressed to Formula Ford, the Porsche Carrera Cup, the FIA GT Championship and the German DTM touring car series.